FIRST PERSON | I know that being immunized against the flu is a working proposition, but have avoided getting a flu shot for years. I am a service-connected U.S. veteran and the excellent walk-in service at my local VA clinic makes it easy to get a quick flu shot. I also have allergies that made me look sick. The nurses like to yell about my stuffy nose and tell me to come back when I am better. They do not like the idea of giving a flu shot to a person who might have the flu.
Since 2009, my allergies provided an excuse to dodge the annual flu vaccine ordeal. I had plenty of reminders since every grocery store and drugstore in town posts a giant invitation to get a flu shot, but still managed to get through the flu seasons without taking the shot and getting slightly sick.
This year is different. The alarms were blaring and, stuffy nose or not, I was determined to get the vaccine. Public officials have called a flu epidemic and no one is arguing with them. The 2012-2013 flu season had an earlier start and much more virulent effects than the previous flu season. During the week of Dec. 21 to Dec. 29, states with widespread cases went from 31 to 41. As of Dec. 11, the flu is widespread in 47 states. Children are at a higher risk with 20 deaths in the 18 and younger age group.
So I finally got my flu shot on Jan. 8 and have been through three days of mild but annoying effects. That is all fine if I can encourage healthier people to get the vaccination. Flu shots and other extra precautions are important this year and it is not too late to get some protection.
I can help to dispel the myth of getting terribly sick from the flu shot because I have no spleen as an outcome of a catastrophic illness. Our antibodies like to meet up at the spleen before they go out to do battle with viruses, so it can be a challenge to take in dead viruses and jumpstart my immune system. So far, except for a few annoying aches and some extra sleep, I have not suffered anything nearly as debilitating as the full-blown flu.
The final word is this: If I can process the flu vaccine without a spleen and without getting seriously ill, millions of others who avoid the flu vaccine should ease their fears, read the facts, see the logic and get the vaccination as soon as possible.